I got a comment last week asking for some simple seed saving tips. Now, let me preface this with a warning, seed saving is one of those things that starts out really easy and then sucks you in as you try to master all of the subtleties. So, I’m going to limit this post to 4 of the more popular garden crops. Start with these, and as you gain familiarity, you can branch out to other crops.
Lettuce – Lettuce is great for beginning seed saving. Choose a couple of plants and limit your harvest from them. As the summer heat gets intense you’ll notice them start to send up their seed stalks, it will look like a really tall lettuce head at first. Late summer, there will be pretty little flowers on the stalk, probably tons of them. (Lettuce flowers are great for feeding beneficial insects.) Fall will turn them into little puff balls, and they will slowly start to dry. Harvest the entire stalk and dried flower head, I use large paper bags for this. Let them dry all the way. Removing the seed is as easy as rubbing the dried flowers between a couple of fingers, over a bowl. I don’t even bother to remove most of the fluff when I’m done, I just sprinkle the whole fluffy seedy mess onto my garden plots.
Beans – These are nice for beginners because it’s a familiar seed to most of us. All you have to do is leave some nice looking green beans on the vine until they get all dried and hard and brown. Pull them off at the end of the season, time it for some hot weather, get them out before any fall precipitation. Snap open the dried pods, over a bowl, and make sure all the beans are very dry.
Tomatoes – Tomato seeds are just a tiny bit tricky. You take a ripe tomato, and you have to squeeze or scoop out the seed mass. Put the seeds in some jars with water in them. Let that mess ferment someplace out of nose shot for a couple of weeks. This removes the sprout inhibiting gel that surrounds the seeds. Then you have to strain out the seeds, and let them dry. It sounds like a lot of work, but each step is really easy. After the first couple of tries you’ll have the hang of it.
Squash – Squash is another easy one, because it’s easy to know where the seeds are. Mark one mature squash with string or marker. Let it get nice and big. Crack it open at the end of the season and scrape those seeds out. Let them dry.
Make sure your seeds get dry. All the way dry. Don’t skimp on that one, they’ll rot in storage.
Make sure you label everything. You WON’T remember.
Hope that helps! Take the first steps and give it a try this year! Sound off in the comments if you have any questions.
– Calamity Jane